16 And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17 And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” 18 He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, 19 Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. (Matthew 19: 16-22)
Sometimes it comes as a startling revelation to discover ordinary folk like us are the chosen people of God. It is we whom God calls to a different lifestyle – a life of holiness.
Certainly when we first drew near to God, and responded to such an outpouring of love for us as was demonstrated at Calvary, we little dreamed of the ways in which God would transform our lives. We who had been taught to be responsible for our own welfare, to live within the dictates of our society and to practise diligence and care with the management of our finances, never suspected the changes God had in mind for us. When we committed our lives to Christ, many of us assumed that God, on hearing us sing the words “Just as I am, without one plea,” would allow us a passive role within the Dominion. We never expected to find God present in all our thoughts and in every area of our lives.
Just as the rich young ruler of Matthew 19: 16-22 was challenged, God chooses to challenge us to recognise the things we consider most important in our lives. Very few of us are asked to sell all we have and give away the proceeds, yet ultimately God will challenge all our beliefs about our possessions. In Matthew 26 we read how Jesus demonstrated the dictates God’s love puts on our purses. While ever there are hungry, destitute, homeless and lost people, you and I must loosen the purse strings of our love and freely offer whatever we may. Often God brings us face to face with people who are marginalised, frightened, lonely or dysfunctional so that we may learn how to look at all people though the eyes of Divine love.
Divine love sees all people as equally beloved of God, each deserving to know the peace and security of belonging to the ever-increasing company of believers. God sees you and me as the perfect people we were created, and God allows us time and again, to choose between an ongoing process of transformation – with all its inherent uncertainties – and a more certain, comfortable, status-quo type life.
As we pause in the presence of our Creator we may be challenged, as was Simon Peter, by Jesus’ question, “Do you love me more than these?” (John 21:15). The God to whom we have given our lives asks us to reflect on all our relationships – with friends, family and those beloved to us. Do we love individuals more, and seek to please them oftener, than we choose to love and serve God? On Sinai’s heights Moses learned that “I, the Lord thy God, am a jealous God” (Exodus 20:5). Perhaps time has clouded the meaning of “jealous” in this verse, for just as a parent is jealous for the welfare of their charges so God is jealous for the welfare of all God’s people. God will not tolerate those whose actions damage our lives, nor will God accept our idolism of any item that we desire above all else, or anything to which we address our worship, nor any person who crowds God out from our lives. Just as before any thing existed God’s presence was eminent, so in our daily lives God’s presence should be eminent.
God imposes certain conditions for the forgiveness of sins – we will only be forgiven to the extent we forgive others. We cannot expect our slates to be cleansed while ever we bear resentment against others for what we perceive as their errors of judgment. Forgiving others can seem well nigh impossible, yet God can and does change our desires when we admit that it is impossible for us to change of our own accord. As we continue praying for God’s blessing on those who have harmed us or those we love, slowly we discover how God has worked through these very circumstances, and we are able to bless those who have cursed us.
The world in which we live transforms us from the outside in. God transforms us from the inside out. The world places a bandage of worldly pleasures over the corrosive disease caused by our selfish, sin-filled existence. God removes the scars of sin from our lives, cauterising those areas that have been badly damaged, and the infection of our soul is healed. Remolded or recast we will be, as we pursue the pathway to the holiness God requires of us.
1 Peter 1:16: “Be ye holy, for I am holy.”
Rev. Vera I. Bourne of Lismore, N.S.W., Australia, served as Outreach Clergy at Christs Community Church.